Kansas moves to Phase 2 of vaccine plan — what that means for Johnson County

As Johnson County continues efforts to vaccinate individuals in Phase 1, Kansas announced it will start vaccinating eligible individuals in Phase 2 on Thursday. Above, an AdventHealth Shawnee Mission employee is vaccinated. Photo courtesy AdventHealth Shawnee Mission.

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Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly announced Wednesday the state will begin vaccinating eligible individuals in Phase 2 of its vaccination rollout plan starting Thursday. But Johnson County is still continuing efforts to vaccinate Phase 1 individuals, mostly comprised of health care workers.

County health director Sanmi Areola, Ph.D., told the county commission Thursday morning that the county will try to move into Phase 2 next week but still has yet to complete Phase 1 and may not do so this week if more vaccine doses do not arrive from the state.

“The key variable here is availability of vaccine,” Areola said. “A lot of our residents want to take the vaccine, but I cannot predict how or when we are going to receive all the vaccines we need in the future.”

Here are some key things to remember as Johnson County sits on the cusp of starting Phase 2 of its vaccine distribution plan:

Some people will be prioritized once Phase 2 begins

Areola told commissioners Thursday that once Phase 2 vaccinations start, individuals will be prioritized based on their age and job.

People in “Tier 1” of Phase 2 vaccinations, according to JCDHE’s plan, include:

  • Unvaccinated individuals left over from Phase 1
  • People 65 and older
  • K-12 school staff, including teachers, bus drivers, custodial staff
  • Licensed child care workers
  • EMS and public safety workers, including police and firefighters
  • Grocery store workers
  • Employees at bars and restaurants
  • Workers at food processing plants

Individuals eligible in Phase 2 who want to be vaccinated can register their interest with JCHDE here. Areola said as of Thursday, more than 66,000 people in Johnson County have taken the online survey.

To put that in perspective, the state says it is expecting to receive just 45,000 doses for the entire state in its next shipment from the federal government.

If you are 65+, you will likely be contacted by your doctor/hospital about getting vaccinated

Areola told commissioners Thursday that the main way the county is hoping to get seniors not living in long-term care facilities vaccinated is through their primary care providers. (Residents and workers in long-term care facilities are mostly being vaccinated through a federal vaccination partnership with CVS and Walgreens.)

That means, if you’re 65 years of age or older, you should be on the lookout for communication from your doctor (if you haven’t received one already) giving you more information about when they may be ready to give you a vaccination.

Areola said the following Johnson County hospital systems have committed to reaching out to their patients who are 65 and older for this purpose:

  • AdventhHealth
  • HCA
  • KU Med
  • Olathe Health
  • St. Luke’s

Patience will still be needed

Johnson County — with one of the highest concentrations of health care workers in the state — has struggled to get through the first phase and spent weeks “begging” for more doses from the state.

Areola said JCDHE hoped by the end of the day Thursday to have administered at least 10,000 doses of vaccine. (That does not include vaccines given out by hospitals or in long-term care facilities, which receive doses separately from JCDHE.)

In terms of raw numbers, that is more doses administered than many of its neighbors, but because of Johnson County’s disproportionately large population of health care workers, the county is behind others in its vaccine rollout.

As nearby counties, like Wyandotte County, wrapped up Phase 1 in recent days, Johnson County lagged behind after receiving only a fraction of the doses health officials say they needed to complete Phase 1 here.

“It’s just fallen short because we don’t have the amount of vaccine we need,” KDHE Secretary Dr. Lee Norman said during Tuesday’s University of Kansas Medical Center’s briefing. “It’s just a trickling supply coming in that’s been a source of frustration.”

At times, JCDHE said it relied on local partnerships with hospital systems to get much-needed doses of the vaccine. The single biggest source of vaccines for the county has been the Olathe-based Health Partnership Clinic, which shared more than 7,000 doses.

However, JCDHE remained optimistic it will have supplies to get through the rest of the health care workers by the end of this week.